This article aims at analysing the Consumer Protection Law 2021 and the changes which it has effected upon the previous statutory regime. It must be noted, that this reform can be hailed as significantly increasing the rights of consumers.
Section 5(1) of the Law states explicitly that unfair commercial practices are prohibited. In Section 5(2) all the unfair commercial practices are listed exhaustively. Unfair commercial practices include a practice which “(a) is contrary to the standards of professional conscientiousness, and/or (b) substantially distorts or may distort essentially the financial behaviour of the average consumer to whom the product is delivered or for whom the product is designed, or to the average team member, when a commercial practice is addressed to a specific group of consumers, and/or (c) is misleading, as defined in Sections 6 and 7, and/or (d) is hostile, as defined in Section 1”.
It must be noted that Part II of the Law examines the rights of consumers in consumer contracts. Regarding consumer contracts which are formulated in commercial stores, according to Section 16, the Law provides the rights listed below to consumers. Specifically, the following information ought to be provided by the shop owner, unless such information is obvious: (a) the main characteristics of the goods or services; (b) the identity of the trader; (c) the total price of the goods or services, including taxes or the manner in which the price is to be calculated; (d) where applicable, the arrangements for payment, delivery, execution, deadline, and the policy applied by the trader for dealing with complaints; (e) in addition to a reminder of the existence of a legal guarantee of conformity of the goods, a reminder of the existence of after sales service and, where appropriate, commercial guarantees, together with the relevant conditions; (f) the duration of the contract, where appropriate, or, if the contract is indefinite or has an automatic extension, the conditions for its termination; (g) where applicable, the operational capabilities of the digital content, along with current technical protection measures; (h) where applicable, any significant interoperability of the digital content with its hardware and software of which the trader has knowledge or is reasonably expected to know; (i) where applicable, the possibility of recourse to an out-of-Court grievance mechanism and redress to which the trader belongs, as well as the ways to access it; (j) any other contractual terms and conditions.
Furthermore, according to Section 36(1) of the Law: “The seller is responsible to the consumer for any lack of compliance that exists upon delivery of goods.” Section 36(2) clarifies that the consumer has the right for the seller to restore the compliance of the product, free of any charge, either by repairing or replacing the product in question, or through an appropriate reduction in price, or by withdrawing from the contract in respect of that product.
Αdditionally, it is worth highlighting that the Law requires commercial store owners to state the price of all goods that they are selling with some exceptions. Section 42(1) of the Law states that a “trader, who sells or exhibits products for sale to consumers, must ensure that additionally to the selling price, they are marked with the unit price of the product, according to the provisions of this Part.” Section 44 (1) states that the selling and unit price must be indicated in euros, and Section 44(2) clarifies that only the selling and unit price must be written on the products. Section 44(3) outlines that: “The selling price and the unit price must (a) be clear, easily recognizable, distinct and legible; and (b) be indicated on the products themselves or on their packaging or on the shelves of the store that the products are placed, if this does not confuse the consumer.”
Section 45 of the Law discusses sales pricing and clarifies that traders who sell or exhibit products in commercial stores at a discounted price must ensure that the following are indicated on the product: (a) the current selling price; or (b) its fraction or percentage reduction from the immediately preceding price, with a general warning or in any other manner, so long as the facts of the reduction are - (i) clearly and easily identifiable in relation to a specific product; and (ii) are clearly visible and legible.”
Furthermore, Part VIII of the Law analyses the powers which the Authorized Agency has in examining complaints and ensuring that the Law is applied properly. Specifically, Section 53 (1) states that: “The Authorized Agency has the authority to examine, subsequent to a submission of a complaint and/or of its own accord, any possible violations of this Law and such an examination may concern more than one trader, either individually or jointly, of the same professional sector or their associations, which may violate the provisions of this Law.” Section 54 provides an extensive list of the powers of the Authorized Agency. Nonetheless the power which stands out is the power “to purchase goods or services as trial purchases, even with undercover identity in order to detect any violations of this Law, and collect evidence, including the power to inspect, observe, study, disassemble or test the goods or the services.”
Moreover, there is a right of hierarchical recourse as outlined in Section 59 of the Law. Section 59(1) states that the right of hierarchical recourse can be exercised against the decision of the Director of the Agency within thirty days from the notification of the decision against the offender. Additionally, Section 61 provides the power and the framework for the imposition and immediate payment of an administrative fine. Regarding fines, it is important to note that Section 61(3) states that the “procedure for collecting a fine shall not be suspended by any parallel procedure initiated by or against of the Authorized Agency, and/or the Director, and/or Minister.”
Part IX of the Law is extremely significant since it provides both the relevant authorities as well as persons with a legal interest, as defined in subsection (2) of section 62 with the power to seek relevant Court Orders as to enforce their decisions in case of non-compliance. Specifically, Section 62(1) states that there is power to persons that have such a legal interest to “request from the Court the issuance of an Order on the basis of which it will prohibit any trader including a code owner, to violate or continue to violate the provisions of this Law.” Notably, store owners which violate the provisions of Section 64 can be found liable of criminal offences as outlined in the relevant Section of the Law.
It must be highlighted that Section 63 of the Law provides the available remedies to consumers whose rights have been violated. It is very significant that Section 63(1) gives consumers the right to file a Court action in order to seek compensation and/or contract termination and/or price reduction and/or any other reasonable remedy and/or restitution of the damage which they suffered.
In conclusion, the Consumer Protection Law 2021 is a progressive consumer-friendly statutory regime which adequately harmonizes the national law with E.U. law since the requirements of Regulation (EU) 2017/2394 are satisfied. Additionally, it provides important protection to consumer rights and it consolidates various other legislation into a single statutory multi-pack. It must be noted that this legislation is a prime example of how statutory regimes must be constructed in such a manner as to serve the efficacy of their theoretical provisions.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.